Thursday, March 15, 2012

Contextual learning sequences become obsolete, not things

I'm not sure I agree with the logic behind TeachPaperless: Schools are Full of Obsolete Things.  Discussing whether objects are obsolete or not does little to disclose whether curriculum, assessment, and instruction are relevant.  The article mentions that desktop computers and standardized tests are somewhat obsolete, and that cassette players; Soviet-era political maps; curricula that treat technology as auxiliary to content; and the idea that technology will save education (as opposed to the idea that relevance will) are completely obsolete.  The argument is that the only way to shift to an "emergence of participatory, user-driven technologies and social media as viable communicative and collaborative tools" approach is to accept the fact that technological use is inherent to any change process.  According to the article, this shift "presents an opportunity to teachers".  I would argue that if such a shift took place, that it hardly presents an opportunity to teachers.

For the most part, the same teachers who feel that certain objects alone become obsolete which then lead to an irrelevant education will continue to struggle connecting new technologies to some relevant educative experience.  Why?  We need a new narrative that discusses objects in terms of how they are being used.  Let's describe how Soviet-era political maps, for example, are being used before deciding on their relevance.  In fact, it is not the relevance of the object itself, it is the relevance in how the educator, students, and any other stakeholders are using (i.e., interacting with) the object (i.e., Soviet-era political map) to achieve some goal, objective, or outcome.  If we define objects to mean anything that causes a change in some other object, we can also view objects as being embedded within other objects as well.  An ANT stance is useful here so that any object is considered in terms of its relations with other objects (e.g., objects can be small or big, physical or non-physical,  or real and unreal).  Let's start talking about the relevance of contextual learning sequences instead of the relevance of a desk or cassette player.